Category Archives: c – Photographing movement

Panning with different shutter speeds

Having settled on shooting a train for the shutter speed exercise, I also considered it a suitable subject for this one but chose a different vantage point which I thought was more suited to panning shots as it had a reasonable length visible track.

Taken at 1/8 sec at f18

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Taken at 1/13 sec at f14

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Taken at 1/15 sec at f29

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Taken at 1/25 sec at f22

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Taken at 1/40 sec at f18

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Taken at 1/60 sec at f11

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Taken at 1/125 sec at f10

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Taken at 1/160 sec at f6.3

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Taken at 1/200 sec at f8

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Taken at 1/400 sec at f5

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As in the shutter speed exercise there is a speed of shutter after which the technique of panning becomes ineffective because the speed of the shutter precludes any movement of the background in relation to the subject. In the above shots I would say that this occurs at shutter speeds in excess of 1/200 of a second.

Of the shots in this exercise, and the previous one, my preference is for these two:-

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I like the fact that you can see the detail of the train, particularly the lettering, and that it is evident that the train is moving at speed.

From the earlier shutter speed exercise I preferred the shot taken at 1/10 as gives a nice blur both horizontally and vertically – with the carriage gap:-

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I have previously used panning as a technique, primarily (as might be expected) with motorsports, but it is not one that I would normally use unless I have spotted it as a possible option:-


FIA European Rallycross Championship at Lydden Hill. Camera Sony DSLR-A900; Exposure 1/200 sec; Aperture f/18.0; Focal Length 200 mm and ISO Speed 200.

Panning on the Southbank. Camera Sony SLT-A77V; Exposure 1/30 sec; Aperture f/16.0; Focal Length 40 mm and ISO Speed 200.

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Shutter speeds

To illustrate the effect of using different shutter speeds I thought I would shoot trains going by from a nearby nature reserve. I had previously considered using skateboarders at the Southbank centre but was not happy with the results in that I did not have a clear shot at all speeds and the background was too busy.

The following shots were all shot with a Sony A900 24-70mm lens at 70mm at ISO 200.

Shutter speed 1 second

Shutter speed 0.5 seconds
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Shutter speed 0.4 seconds
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Shutter speed 0.25 seconds
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Shutter speed 1/6 second
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Shutter speed 1/8 second
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Shutter speed 1/10 second
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Shutter speed 1/13 second
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Shutter speed 1/100 second
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Shutter speed 1/125 second
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Shutter speed 1/160 second
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Shutter speed 1/200 second
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Shutter speed 1/320 second
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Shutter speed 1/400 second
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Shutter speed 1/500 second
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Shutter speed 1/800 second
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As far as shooting a moving subject is concerned, it has to be realised that if the shutter speed is too slow the subject will either be invisible or unrecognisable (see the first three shots above) and while giving an abstract feel to the shot concerned, it may not provide the style of shot required. On the other hand, too fast a shutter speed then the subject will be frozen and any indication of movement lost (except if used in conjunction with panning – see next post) see the shots above at 1/320 of a second and faster. So the most effective setting in the above case, in my view, is probably the 1/13 and 1/100 second shots in which the subject can recognised but it is also clear that there is movement going on.

There was a variable that was outside my control – the speed of the train – but I think the various trains shot were travelling at a similar speed. It is not until shutter speeds of 1/320 of a second is used, that the detail becomes clear – in particular the lettering on the train. As it was a misty morning the sharpness of the shots are compromised somewhat but nevertheless the effect of altering the shutter speed is clearly shown.

I’ve been fascinated by high speed photography since a teenager and at the time marvelled how photographers like Stephen Dalton managed to take the shots he did (his book Split Second describes his technique from the pre digital era). These days the technology allows the use of extremely fast shutter speeds (my A900 goes up to 1/8000 and can sync with flash at these high speeds):-

“Norman was here”
Camera Sony DSLR-A900; Exposure 1/8000; Aperture f/2.8; Focal Length 70 mm and ISO Speed 200

In addition I’ve used shutter speeds at the other end of the scale to make different effects:-

“Zooooom”
Camera Sony DSLR-A700; Exposure 20 seconds; Aperture f/22.0; Focal Length 30 mm and ISO Speed 200.